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Waiter distracted when ex-Russian spy’s tea was poisoned
Question of the Day
LONDON — The waiter who was serving Alexander Litvinenko at the moment the former Russian spy was poisoned says he thinks he was deliberately distracted while a radioactive substance was sprayed into Mr. Litvinenko’s tea.
In the first eyewitness account of the Nov. 1 incident, Norberto Andrade says he was the waiter who served drinks to Mr. Litvinenko and two former KGB agents — Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun — at the Millennium Hotel in London on the day of the poisoning.
Twenty-three days later, Mr. Litvinenko died in agony from a dose of polonium-210 that was 200 times the lethal level.
“When I was delivering gin and tonic to the table, I was obstructed. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it seemed very deliberate to create a distraction. It made it difficult to put the drink down,” Mr. Andrade said in an interview.
“It was the only moment when the situation seemed unfriendly and something went on at that point. I think the [radioactive] polonium was sprayed into the teapot.
“There was contamination found on the picture above where Mr. Litvinenko had been sitting and all over the table, chair and floor, so it must have been a spray.”
Mr. Andrade, 67, the head barman of the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel, said he has worked at the hotel for 27 years. He also revealed just how close he came to becoming an unintended second victim of the assassin.
Shortly after the three men left the bar, Mr. Andrade said, he cleared the table. It was then that he noticed the contents of the teapot had turned a “funny color.”
“When I poured the remains of the teapot into the sink, the tea looked more yellow than usual and was thicker — it looked gooey,” he recalled. “I scooped it out of the sink and threw it into the bin. I was so lucky I didn’t put my fingers into my mouth or scratch my eye as I could have got this poison inside me.
“For nearly three weeks, we were working in a contaminated area. The dishwasher, the bar and the sink were contaminated. In the weeks after what happened, I was feeling hot and had a throat infection.
“When we were told we had been contaminated, I was really worried about my grandchildren. They fall asleep on my knee whenever they come over to visit on my days off. It has made me so angry. They could have killed other people in that room. They had no regard for life whatsoever.”
Mr. Andrade’s health has also suffered. He has had nightmares since learning of Mr. Litvinenko’s agonizing death and has been told by doctors that he faces a slightly increased risk of developing cancer later in life as a result of his exposure to the polonium. He said he also fears for the safety of his wife, Valerie, and two grandchildren, Harry, 3, and George, 4.
Bizarrely, given the central role that he played in a plot that could have come straight from the pages of a spy film, Mr. Andrade also said he used to serve Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, the producer of James Bond films, as well as Sean Connery and George Lazenby, who both had played 007.
“At that time, the bar was a restaurant and he would bring Sean Connery and George Lazenby in with him. Now we have had a real-life James Bond scene happening in the same bar.”
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